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Title: Butoh dance in the UK : an ethnographic performance investigation
Author: Esposito, Paola
Awarding Body: Oxford Brookes University
Current Institution: Oxford Brookes University
Date of Award: 2013
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The aim of this thesis is to investigate the social and cultural significance of butoh dance beyond its original context of postwar Japan. In order to do so, the thesis explores ideas, practices and experiences of butoh dancing among contemporary - Japanese as well as non-Japanese - practitioners: primarily the Oxford-based butoh dance company Cafe Reason, which constituted the main case study for the research. The ethnographic particularities of butoh, as defined by its practitioners, provided the core of the investigation. That is, a common notion among teachers and students of this dance form is that butoh has no conclusive form or style. They also say that butoh is defined by its very defying of definitions. Thus, the central question that runs through the thesis is: 'How does butoh, a dance that resists codification and classification, continue to be practised and reinvented?' The central hypothesis of the thesis is that the core of butoh lies in its perceptual, rather than its formal, constitution and articulation. In order to test this hypothesis I engaged an unorthodox methodology that, by explicitly mobilizing sensory engagement in the processes of training and performing butoh, brought my own experience to the centre-stage of the analysis. In turn, the methodological focus on the senses unveiled the sophisticated aesthetic dimensions of butoh dancing, especially its reliance on tactile-kinesthetic perception. Based on these methodological premises, a review of butoh training and performances allowed an approach to the semantic and perceptual 'indeterminacy' of the butoh body. The latter is typically associated with unintelligible levels of experience: in the form of either intense, and often 'antisocial,' emotional states, or augmented, near-religious, states of awareness. These findings led me to identify 'emotion' and 'otherness' as the core experiential dimensions of butoh dancing, which, in turn, explains its continuity and significance as an art form. Ultimately, butoh's synthesis of 'art' and 'spirituality,' or of 'dance' and 'therapy,' allows the analysis to situate this cultural phenomenon in a continuum between ritual and aesthetic performance, with different butoh dancers placing themselves at different positions within this spectrum.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available